Forbidden Knowledge...

There's been a wee drama unfolding off screen over the last few days as our TV operators have lined up behind SKY TV to refuse to run a TVC from Slingshot that made a reference to their 'global mode' service that lets customers get around IP address based geoblocking so that they can access off shore video content from providers such as Netflix, Hulu, iTunes and BBC iPlayer.

The supposed reason for the ban is the legality of global mode. Apparently a complaint has now been laid with the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) so we'll see how this plays out, but Slingshot have now 'censored' the offending material so I think it may end up as an ironic net positive for them.

What is at stake here is the future direction of NZ's close to $1bn/yr TV advertising market, what the channels sell advertisers is audiences and there are 3 things that generate big viewing audiences, live sporting events (most of which SKY own) News and compelling TV shows (like Dr Who, Top Gear, Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad). The problem is that the internet has broken all three models.

TV doesn't break news any more, it often simply aggregates and repeats news from on-line sources, the same is happening with sport and will increase as sporting organisations will increasingly seek to monetise their own audiences and the TV content rapidly looses its audience generating appeal when global fan bases all tune in to the first run and its reviews.

I think we all know people who have gone down the global route, I have friends who have moved back to NZ from the states, they have a fast (non-UFB) 100mb/s connection, the technical savvy to 'global mode' and they enjoy Netflix, Hulu and US iTunes. I also know of a former cabinet minister who saw an Apple TV overseas, bought one and then was very disappointed at the NZ Apple TV offering.

I think SKY, TVNZ & Mediaworks need to be careful implying that people like these are thieves and pirates, they are not - they are customers. More than that they are prepared to pay for the content they want, just not necessarily to the so-called NZ rights holders. But this is also bigger than that, their business model is under threat from marketers shifting their budgets on-line, have you noticed the local ads you get at the start of YouTube clips?.

As advertisers follow their audiences on-line the defensive measures will get more desperate, and the real battle lines will get drawn. I think Slingshot will emerge from this skirmish with greater awareness of global mode and the concept of 'geoblocking' and the whole 'stack' of content rights will slowly get dismantled and get dispatched to the rubbish bin of outdated ideas.